Harold Vick

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Harold Vick
Background information
Birth nameHarold Edward Vick
Born(1936-04-03)April 3, 1936
Rocky Mount, North Carolina, U.S.
DiedNovember 13, 1987(1987-11-13) (aged 51)
New York City, U.S.
GenresJazz, soul jazz, soul
Instrument(s)Tenor saxophone, flute
Years active1950s–1987
LabelsBlue Note, RCA Victor

Harold Vick (April 3, 1936 – November 13, 1987) was an American jazz saxophonist and flautist.


Harold Vick was born on April 3, 1936, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. At the age of 13, he was given a clarinet by his uncle, Prince Robinson,[1] a clarinet and tenor saxophone player who had been a member of McKinney's Cotton Pickers.[2] Three years later he took up the tenor saxophone, and soon began playing in R&B bands.[3] He continued to perform, still largely with R&B bands, while studying psychology at Howard University.[1]

Recordings as leader[edit]

Steppin' Out!, Vick's first album as a leader, was recorded for Blue Note Records in 1963.[1] After a 1965 performance at Carnegie Hall with Donald Byrd, Vick secured a contract for further albums as leader,[1] and from 1966 to 1974, he had further recording sessions for the RCA, Muse, and Strata-East labels.[3]

Work as sideman[edit]

Vick worked as a sideman with Jack McDuff from 1960 to 1964, and also with other organists such as Jimmy McGriff, Big John Patton, and Larry Young. For the rest of the 1960s, he played on and off with Walter Bishop Jr., and also worked with Philly Joe Jones, Howard McGhee, Donald Byrd, and Ray Charles. He also appeared with Dizzy Gillespie at the 1968 Newport Jazz Festival.[1]

Vick then worked for around 5 years with soul artists, from 1969 to 1970 with King Curtis, and from 1970 to 1974 with Aretha Franklin. He played in Jack DeJohnette's jazz-rock band Compost from 1971 to 1973,[1] recording with them in 1972.[3]

After a heart attack in the mid-1970s, Vick largely returned to soul jazz, working with Shirley Scott from 1974 to 1976 and with Jimmy McGriff from 1980 to 1981. At the same time he continued to work as a freelance jazz musician and session musician.[1] As late as 1987 he performed on two Billie Holiday tribute albums by Abbey Lincoln.[3]

He also played with Nat Adderley, Mercer Ellington, Sarah Vaughan, Billy Taylor, Horace Silver, and Gene Ammons.[4]

Film and theatre[edit]

During the 1960s, Vick worked as a member of the house band at the Apollo Theater, and in 1969 he toured Europe with the Negro Ensemble Company.[1] He also played for a number of stage productions during the 1980s.[4]

He appeared in the films Stardust Memories (1981) and The Cotton Club (1984), in which he played a musician. He was also cast for the Spike Lee film School Daze (1988), and undertook work for the soundtracks for a number of other films.[3][4]


Vick died at his Manhattan home of another heart attack[4] on November 13, 1987.[1] He was memorialized in the tune "Did You See Harold Vick?", which Sonny Rollins wrote and featured on his album This Is What I Do (2000).[5]


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Walter Bishop Jr.

With Compost

  • Compost (Columbia, 1972)
  • Life Is Round (Columbia, 1973)

With Joe Chambers

With Grant Green

With Richard "Groove" Holmes

With Sam Jones

With Mike Longo

With Les McCann

With Jack McDuff

With Jimmy McGriff

With Bob Moses

  • Home in Motion (Ra-Kalam, 2012)

With Jimmy Owens

With John Patton

With Duke Pearson

With Houston Person

With Bu Pleasant

  • Ms. Bu (Muse, 1973)

With Bernard Purdie

With Pharoah Sanders

With Shirley Scott

With Horace Silver

With Charles Tolliver

With McCoy Tyner

  • Cosmos (Blue Note, tracks with Vick recorded 1969 [rel. 1977])

With Johnny Hammond

With Larry Willis


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Barry Kernfeld (ed.)(2002): The New Grove dictionary of Jazz. London: Macmillan Publishers Limited. 2nd ed, Vol 3, p. 843.
  2. ^ Sarah Bryan, Beverly Patterson (2013). African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina. Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press Books, p. 112.
  3. ^ a b c d e Kelsey, Chris. "Harold Vick Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2007-06-23.
  4. ^ a b c d "Harold E. Vick, 51, A Tenor Saxophonist". The New York Times. November 17, 1987. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  5. ^ Graybow, Steve (2000). Jazz Blue Notes, Billboard November 11, 2000, p. 43